“The Happy Prince”: A Different Oscar Wilde

It is not uncommon for an actor to change their appearance for a role. Often this transformation, if the script is good and the film is well directed, can render an Oscar nomination, if not an outright win. Looking back who can forget Charlize Theron’s transformation to the serial killer/man hater Aileen Wournos in “Monster” or Alfred Molina putting on a lot of weight when he played Frida Kahlo;s husband, Diego Rivera, in “Frida?” And what about the late Philip Seymour Hoffman drastic alteration of his body and visage to portray an effete Truman Capote in “Capote.” (In retrospect by Theron and Hoffman won Academy Awards for their characters in “Monster” and “Capote.)

In Sony Classics’ “The Happy Prince” so does Rupert Everett morph his well-chiseled physique into a bloated, oversized, sotted, mess of a man in an attempt to give visual relevance to Oscar Wilde in the last years of his life. In past films. Everett mostly portrayed urban, sophisticated, body-beautiful men who always had the last quip and were the love interest of both women and men alike. Everett’s Oscar Wilde is far removed from the well-heeled gay characters that Everett has portrayed over the last two decades. His Wilde is desperate, morose, down-on-his- luck, and lost in menage of remembrances past and unfulfilled opportunities.

Though “Happy Prince” is written and directed by Everett, Everett ingeniously mines out a performance that is stocked full of nuance and depth. He even manages to project beyond Wilde’s miserable state of a penniless outcast who depends on the kindness of friends, fellow miscreants with an occasional rent boy thrown in for good measure. In spite of Wilde’s pitiful state, Everett injects a wealth of charm and vibrancy coupled with Wilde’s incomparable wit into his portrayal.

In a cheap Parisian hotel room, in declining health, Wilde looks back on life, his fall from grace, his imprisonment, and his many loves—Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) and Wilde’s wife and two children. His retrospection details good times and great losses; his life as a libertine and dandy of sorts, as well as the fame that came with the production of his plays and written works.

“The Happy Prince” includes a stellar cast that includes Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, and Edwin Thomas. Still, “The “Happy Prince” is a star vehicle for Rupert Everett. And with his portrayal of a downtrodden Oscar Wilde, we get to see Oscar Wilde in a different light, and how deep Rupert Everett’s well of talent can go. With “The Happy Prince,” Rupert Everett proves he is much more than a pretty face with a British accent. Is there is Oscar nomination in the works? Fashion Reverie thinks so!!

Photos courtesy of Sony Classics

“The Happy Prince” is distributed by Sony Classics and opens in limited release on October 10.—William S. Gooch

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